Pierre joined Vallourec three years ago as an engineering graduate having specialized in mechanical design. He is currently working on New Energies, a key pillar of the New Vallourec plan at the Connection ONE R&D Department in Aulnoye (formerly VRCC)
My work involves setting up test protocols and carrying out investigations so we can qualify our oil and gas (O&G) connections for new energies applications, such as geothermal, hydrogen and CCS (Carbon Capture & Storage). I was joined a year ago by a colleague – Laurent Boufflers. He now oversees the hydrogen part.
Vallourec is known for its sound expertise in O&G. It is this professional approach that we are now bringing to new energies. Our connections are tested with the API RP 5C5 protocol. This is the bible for O&G, but it does not necessarily address issues to do with new energies. We have therefore modified it into a “home-made” Vallourec protocol that addresses the specific needs of the hydrogen and carbon capture industries. For geothermal energy, an existing protocol serves as a basis for our work (TWCCEP*). We have been working on ways to test and optimize this protocol in order to respond more efficiently to the needs of the market. These protocols are already a benchmark, and we will perform several tests this year for clients or partners.
Currently, we mainly qualify T&C (Threaded and Coupled) connections in our portfolio – mainly the VAM® 21. The next step, which is already underway, will be to qualify full or semi-full connections (Flush and Semi-flush) for a more varied offering to meet clients’ technical constraints.
I joined Vallourec just as the Group was embarking on the energy transition. When I had my annual appraisal, I quickly let my manager know that I was interested in these new fields. I ended up being the first at ONE R&D Aulnoye to work in this area.
Now, the Group has really turned a corner when it comes to new energies. We are fortunate to be ahead of our competitors in this area. And we are seen as a leader in the field by our clients who have no hesitation in asking us for advice.
When I left school, I did an internship at a design office, and I wanted to stay in this field. I looked at several job offers.
When I had my first interview with Vallourec, I was given a tour of the test station. It is a miniature factory – something of a rarity for an R&D lab!
There are lathes, pressure testers, screwdrivers... You can directly machine the connections you have designed and see how they react. It was this proximity to the test station combined with the Group's international dimension that really made me want to work at Vallourec. And being an R&D engineer at Vallourec gives you the opportunity to work in many different fields (connection design, development, test protocols, project management, etc.).
You cannot compromise on scientific rigor in R&D. And with the emergence of new energies, I would say that agility was also important. This is a fast-changing sector. You have to be able to react very quickly to integrate new client specifications, undertake redesign, change schedules, make changes to test protocols... A project management and innovation component has been added to the pure technical aspect.
I am always impressed by the expertise of my colleagues and the Group. There is practically an expert – and so a solution – for every question. I particularly appreciate this human and scientific aspect. Discussions are always very rich and extremely thorough. This makes for a very pleasant atmosphere and work environment.
The emergence of new energies was also an opportunity for new challenges for me. Development engineers had to be brought on board, which one would have expected, as well as R&D technicians to adapt the test station. To do that, they had to break with standard O&G practices. But my colleagues are very open and very quickly everyone embraced these new challenges willingly. And to be honest, it motivated me to motivate others.
I have been doing archery on and off for 12 or 13 years. It is a sport that I particularly appreciate because it requires concentration, precision and rigor. I see it as more of an art than a sport. Like with design, if you change one detail, you miss the target.
Moving to the new energy sector was a real opportunity for me both from a personal point of view – it was in line with my environmental principles – and professionally. I’m looking forward to seeing how the New Energies teams evolve. I started the adventure alone with my manager. Now there are three of us and the team is set to grow even more. I can't wait to see what the future holds.
* Thermal Well Casing Connection Evaluation protocol